Michigan State University's Department of Community Sustainability's CSUS 200 course, Introduction to Sustainability, is often the first stop for MSU students interested in subjects like environmental stewardship, waste reduction and clean energy. The course provides students with the opportunity to learn about the principles of sustainability and how their actions can make a difference. For two of the four classes taught each semester, that learning experience includes partnering with MSU's Recycling Center team to conduct a hands-on waste audit of a campus building.

Designed to measure the amount of recyclable and organic material that ends up in the waste stream, waste sorts provide key information that helps the recycling team improve their services. Each building reveals unique results about what materials are being diverted through recycling or composting and what materials are being sent to the landfill. Thus far, the results show that plastic, paper and organic items are the most common divertible material that end up in the waste stream.

"The point of the waste audits is ultimately to develop more building-specific guidelines for recycling that will help reduce the amount of material that ends up the landfill," said Dave Smith, Recycling Coordinator at MSU Recycling, "we want to divert as much material as possible, and to do that we strive to make improvements based on the information gained in each unique waste sort."

Students wait for instruction inside the recycling center.
Dave Smith, recycling coordinator, leads students in a waste sort at MSU's Material Recovery Facility.